Davydenko tops Vliegen to win Adelaide tennis title
January 5, 2003
ADELAIDE, Australia (Ticker) - Russia's Nikolay Davydenko won a battle of nerves and his first career ATP title.
Davydenko defeated another final debutante, Belgian qualifier Kristof Vliegen, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3), on Sunday to capture the $322,000 AAPT Championships hardcourt event.
The 21-year-old Davydenko, who turned professional in 2000, recorded upsets over fourth seed Ivan Ljubicic, No. 5 Mariano Zabaleta and veteran Adrian Voinea this week. His five ATP match victories this week are almost half of his entire total of 12 last year.
Ranked 81st in the world, Davydenko broke serve in the fifth and seventh games of the match and took the first set in 31 minutes. He snatched Vliegen's serve in the fifth game of the second set and was serving for the match at 5-4 before feeling jitters.
"As I said yesterday, I could be nervous because it was my first title, and at 5-4, it happened," Davydenko said after the 75-minute match. "I was nervous, but I just tried to relax in the tiebreak."
Davydenko earned $52,000 in addition to 35 points toward the ATP Champions Race. He continues his Australian Open preparations next week in Sydney.
"It's like normal for me," the Russian said. "After tomorrow, I play my first match in Sydney. But some players are in the top 100 and never get a title, so for me to win my first title at 21 is good."
This week also was a breakthrough for Vliegen, who had not won a main draw ATP match before this event. He was a regular on the Challenger circuit last season and his career prize money before this week stood at $30,384.
"I think I felt a little bit nervous but he wasn't an easy guy to play," Vliegen said. "I'm a tall guy and I wasn't moving so fast from the back of the court so I think tactically he played pretty good for the whole match. It was frustrating but I kept on fighting the whole second set even when I was down a break at 4-5. I think he got a little bit nervous there."
The 20-year-old Belgian came through qualifying and upended third seed Thomas Enqvist, No. 6 Alberto Martin and former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek en route to his first final.